my boss emailed my mom after laying me off, resigning right after being promoted, and more

It’s four answers to four questions. Here we go…

1. My boss laid me off, then emailed my mom

My mother was a regular customer at the business I work at for some years before I was hired there. OldBoss likes to mentor employees and takes pride at those who move onto prestigious companies in the field. After my hiring, OldBoss gave me opportunities to develop my skills and encouraged me to get a degree in our field.

After seven years of working there, I got my degree. Soon after, OldBoss encouraged me to look for positions elsewhere. It wasn’t long before he subjected me to severe bullying in the hopes I’d quit. At one point, he even asked why I was still there. After seven months of treating me as The Thing That Would Not Leave, he laid me off.

A month later, my mom mentioned an email OldBoss sent her. Did I get it? I did not, so she forwarded it. Paraphrased, it said: “I’m sorry for taking so long to write this. I struggled to find the right words. Jane is stagnating at Business. I could promote her, but I don’t generate enough demand to hire a second role. I’ve begged her to apply to prestigious companies, but months later, she remained. I’ve laid her off so she can have more time to focus on job applications.”

How bizarre is this message? That email was much nicer than anything he said to me in a while, but directed at a paying customer.

Extremely bizarre. The whole thing is extremely bizarre — after seven years of being a great manager to you, he started bullying you to leave simply because you got your degree? And then emailed your mom about it? I assume he felt like he had to say something to her since she’s a long-time customer … but (a) he didn’t actually have to, (b) but if he was going to, this is a really weird way to explain his actions (claiming it was so you could have more time to focus on job applications??), and (c) if he was that worried about what your mom would think, maybe he should have rethought the bullying? It’s not like he could assume you wouldn’t tell her about it.

I hope your mom lets him know this is weird on every level and takes her business somewhere else.

2. Is it OK for my boss to request that I leverage my friendships (which are also part business)?

I have worked in the same smallish, regional field for the last decade, bouncing to a new organization in the same bubble every few years as new opportunities arise. Like a lot of smallish fields, I’d guess, these organizations are sometimes collaborators and sometimes competitors for the same grants, clients, deals, etc. As a result, my former colleagues are my friends, but also a part of my professional network. During the same week, it’s not unusual that I would go to a friend’s home for dinner and then also encounter that same friend (who works for a different organization) in a business meeting to discuss a potential collaboration. There are plenty of issues that can arise from this soup, but I wanted to get your take on one in particular that keeps coming up with my current boss.

He will on occasion (maybe once a week on average) ask me to leverage a social connection for our business goals. Sometimes it seems fairly innocuous; for example, when I mentioned that I planned to see a friend at a gathering over the weekend, he requested I remind the friend that we need his decision on a particular business deal sooner rather than later. Other times, the request feels a little too far (but not in the realm of “I’m bowled over by the audacity”). Yesterday my boss asked if I would inquire what a friend charged his client for a recent work product because we sell a similar product, and knowing this pricing information from a competitor would give us an edge in the market. I care very much about maintaining this relationship with the friend, and I think that puts both of us in an awkward position.

This makes me uncomfortable and I think my boss might be overstepping a boundary, but where my thinking might be wrong is that since these friendships were forged during the course of doing businesses, maybe it is reasonable to expect that this is par for the course? On the other hand, since my field is so small, aside from putting a friend in an awkward position, I am very hesitant to behave in a way that might affect my candidacy for future positions if someone interprets this friend-leveraging as inappropriate.

Yeah, this is tricky! When it’s such a small community with so much overlap, some of this is going to happen naturally — but a good boundary is that if something is inappropriate to ask a business contact (like asking a competitor for pricing info that could put them at a disadvantage), it doesn’t become more appropriate just because they’re a friend. (Of course,  you and your friend might choose to discuss your rates if you were both freelancers or similar, but it’s not something your boss should ask you for.)

On the other hand, something like, “When you see Jim this weekend, could you mention we never received the RFP he was going to send?” is more grey. You shouldn’t have to use your friendships to carry business messages for your boss … but it’s okay to use your own judgment about whether it feels like a burden or will annoy your friend.

In fact, “will annoy you or your friend” is another good bar to use. If your instinct is that your friend will be irked to have you delivering business messages during a social get-together (or that you will resent having your time intruded on in that way), it’s okay to say, “Jim and I have a strict firewall between business and friendship and he’d hate if I asked that this weekend, but I can email him to check on it separately if you want.” So you’re still offering to use a part-business relationship in a business-appropriate way, but you’re maintaining boundaries on how and when you do it.

3. Is it wrong to accept a promotion while waiting for a job offer from another company?

I recently applied for a promotion at my current job and I’m waiting for the decision. It seemed the obvious thing to do since the person doing that job left and 80% of their responsibilities were handed over to me. I have been frustrated for a while with my current position and stressed by the workload and not having a real definition of my scope of work. This role would include a higher title, a raise, and a more specific job description vs. the jack-of-all-trades role I have now.

At the same time, I was also contacted by a recruiter from another company for a role I’m very interested in. I interviewed and made it to the final rounds (thanks for all the interviewing tips!) and I’m waiting to see if they extend an offer.

During all this, I realized I’m very burnt out and just plain tired of my current company’s culture, management, and many issues. So even if I don’t get an offer now, I will still be looking to leave the company in the near future.

If I’m offered the promotion before I hear back from the new company, would it be unethical to accept it knowing I will definitely leave sooner rather than later? I fear saying no to the promotion or withdrawing my application at this stage might be seen as a faux pass. But would saying yes and leaving (hopefully) three weeks later be even worse?

It’s fine to accept the promotion even if you end up leaving shortly after. Unless you have a firm offer that you’ve accepted, you don’t know if you’ll be leaving for another job in the near future so it makes sense to proceed as if you aren’t (and therefore not turn down raises, promotions, or other things that benefit you). If you do end up needing to resign soon after you’re promoted, you’d just acknowledge the timing and say, “This fell in my lap and was too good to pass up.” That happens … and if they have any sense, they’ll realize that if you were seeking a promotion, of course you might have been applying other places too.

4. Company closes the week before New Year’s — but you have to take PTO for it

My sister is a physical therapist who does infant and toddler home health. Her company is private, but they get a lot of government funding. She started in February, and just found out the company is closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Seems great – except they have to take mandatory PTO!

As a tech worker, this blows my mind. They also can’t take too much unpaid time, because this will boot them off their health insurance. I imagine this is may be legal, but even if it is, how do you suggest they talk with management about amending this policy? They do not have a union. They accrue fairly standard PTO for U.S. healthcare workers, but nothing so generous that would make a forced week over the holidays seem normal.

This is actually really common. It sucks since people don’t always want that week off, but it’s not an uncommon practice. Of course, the more preferable practice for companies that shut down that week is to give it as a freebie rather than subtracting it from people’s PTO — which is exactly what better companies do.

If your sister and her coworkers want to push back, they should point out that people might need to save their PTO for other things — especially things that take a good chunk of time (for example, traveling internationally) — and they also, you know, might not celebrate Christmas and need to use their PTO for their own holidays… but if they’re in a field where it’s common, they might not get much traction.

{ 281 comments… read them below }

  1. Raida*

    PTO over holidays but can’t take too much unpaid leave:

    A good solution here, not both not lose all the PTO in one hit and not screw up the insurance is to go with 1/2 pay.

    I’ve seen people do this with a couple of weeks holidays, but they actually take a month off.

        1. Throwaway Account*

          The week is paid because employees use PTO to cover it.
          Since they have a limit on how much unpaid time off they can take, they are likely not taking that week as unpaid leave.

          1. HowdyHelp*

            Writer of #5 here! Correct – if they could work it, they would, but the issue is that most of their clients don’t want to have doctor’s appointments during the holidays (which makes sense!).

            1. Texan In Exile*

              I wanted a doctor’s appointment over the holidays! I had a bad mammogram on Dec 19 (the same day I was laid off, BTW) and had to wait until Jan 7 to get my follow up exam.

              Not only did I have an awful holiday, worrying that I might have cancer, but I also had to deal with figuring out whether I should take COBRA or ACA, depending on whether I had cancer or not.

              (Also – deductibles. The initial mammo was fully covered, but the follow up was considered diagnostic and cost $$$$$$.)(Negative, fortunately.)

              This is why I now have all screening exams and physicals in the summer.

      1. KateM*

        Nah, you need money *before* Christmas – *after* Christmas you will return most of gifts and that gives you enough to survive the unpaid leave, plus you can live on leftovers.
        (Only a little bit of /s)

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I don’t know that it’d actually help? The company doesn’t want you to take “too much” unpaid leave, so you agree to work half days during your actual vacation, so you’re only on half leave. Then you use the full days during the week they’re closed, because they force you to. But you still run out of leave when you run out of leave. And the actual vacation isn’t one.
      Or are you suggesting they use half-day vacation and half-day unpaid leave? A LOT of companies don’t allow use of unpaid leave at all until PTO is completely used up. And it still screws up the insurance because if you’re on unpaid leave part of the time you’d owe more proportionally for your premiums.
      I do believe you that someone you know did this, but it’s not something I’d expect to be an option most of the time in the US.

    2. Erie*

      I don’t think #1 is weird behavior at all. The boss is, like many bullies, kinda cowardly. Tried to push you out without having a tough conversation, through bullying, and then tried to cover his tracks with your mom by presenting an alternative narrative he hoped she’d believe so he wouldn’t lose a customer. Stupid, yes, but not irrational.

  2. Runner up*

    #4 – it’s worth checking if the company gives holidays in that week. My employer (mostly) shuts down between Christmas and New Year’s, but with the holidays we get, it’s only 2 or 3 vacation days to get 9 or 10 days in a row off. We also can take those days without pay if we want (and it’s too short to impact benefits). Although I’d love to not use leave, since some people do need to work, it seems more fair (although they could get different days…)

    1. Little beans*

      This is what we do. We get 4 holidays plus 1-2 weekends so with 3 days of PTO, it’s 9-11 days straight days off. There’s no business happening and so many people taking the week off anyway that it made more sense to close our location and shut down utilities for the week. People can still work remotely if they want but sounds like that wouldn’t be an option in this case.

    2. Lucy P*

      We generally get 6 working days off at the end of the year–3 holidays and 3 PTO days–plus weekends. It’s great for people who don’t take a lot of time off during the year. However, given that we only get 10 days/year of PTO, having to take a mandatory 3 days off can be rough for some people.

      1. HowdyHelp*

        It’s wild to me that a company can force you to take PTO! If they are going to be closed, that’s not something you should have to take your days for!

    3. Hannah Lee*

      Yeah, we typically shut down between the holidays (US manufacturing company)

      The company is only open a half day on the 23rd (with a full day’s pay). Paid company holidays for the 24th and 25th, paid company holidays on the 31st and the 1st, and PTO time to cover the rest of the days off.

      So for this upcoming year end, we’re off from mid-day on Thurs December 21st (since the 24th falls on a weekend) until 8 am Tuesday January 2nd. It winds up being 11 1/2 straight days off, no change in pay, only using only 3 days of PTO time. The company’s PTO time isn’t great the first year (12 days) but then ramps up pretty steadily after that, so most people don’t mind.

      For a handful of people (like me who does payroll and some back end year end close activities that can’t wait until the 2nd) they may work a half or full day during the shutdown, but then the PTO used is adjusted for that.

      The company also tends to close early afternoon on the Friday before Monday holidays, with employees paid the full day, and will usually pay for snow days and other weather or power shutdowns. So there is some employer paid time besides scheduled holidays and PTOs, just not those 3 year end days.

      1. TK*

        That’s how it is for us- we shut down 12/24 to 1/1, with 4 holidays and 3 days of PTO. Add in weekends are you’ve got usually 11ish straight days off. And depending how the calendar falls there are often extra days- for example is 12/23 is a Monday or 1/2 is a Friday, that day is usually off without having to use PTO. One year 1/2 was a Thursday and they gave us both Thursday and Friday off (though another year was the same and they didn’t).

        But nobody complains because we have really generous PTO (public university). You start at 21 days/year (so over 4 weeks). You get a little more every year til you max out after ten years at 31.5 days (over 6 weeks!) Having to use 3 days over the holidays isn’t a big discomfort for most, given that.

    4. This_is_Todays_Name*

      I came to say something similar! My former BIG 4 firm closed from Dec 23-Jan 3, but the way the arranged it we took 3 days of PTO and got 11 days off (2 weekends in there). They declared Xmas Eve, Xmas Day, NYE and NYD all holidays and I believe Dec 26th, as well. It’s been a few years since I left, but I have to admit that long break away from the usual grueling grind was a very nice way to start the new year off!

  3. ThisIsBananaPants*

    Re LW2 – alarms are screaming at the thought of you being asked by your manager if your friend (who works for a different company?) will give you information on their pricing.
    The company I work for makes us complete Mandatory Learning about this – as in “Don’t do this or you could get fired”. In some industries this can also be seen as anti-competitive or collusion.
    I would “forget” to ask my friend, or just tell your manager you aren’t comfortable doing that.
    Also – that could also be putting your friend in a really awkward position!

    1. Lisa*

      That raised major red flags for me as well. Obtaining pricing information from competitors is specifically called out in our ethics training as something Not To Be Done.

      1. Anax*

        Same here! LW2, hopefully you know if this applies to you, but our ethics training calls out this *exact* situation (meeting a friend informally and asking about nonpublic pricing information) as a major concern – very illegal in our industry and definitely a fireable offense.

        1. Van Wilder*

          Agreed. And I think asking your friend to do something that could get them in trouble (or fired) if their company found out is a terrible idea for your relationships.

        2. Random Dice*

          122nding here. I’d be fired for this.

          I’m going to guess this boss does a LOT of shady things that *real* companies that have mandatory ethics training would fire him over.

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, at least in my big company I’m pretty sure that would actually be illegal! (There have been multiple big scandals involving illegal price fixings in my field in the last decade)…
        Apart from that, this information is also considered extremely sensitive and you’d most definitely get fired for telling our competitor. Even within the company, most people don’t know the actual exact market prices of most of our products, and figuring out/estimating what competitors might be charging is a big thing!

        1. Starbuck*

          This is interesting to think about, because so many products, everyone and anyone can see the price! For others (like the price of labor, aka wages) we’re actively encouraging more transparency. And for consumers, you obviously want prices to be available to comparison shop, if it’s a product that’s standard enough that someone doesn’t need to work out a quote for you. But obviously if isn’t not something that’s already publicly shared, it’s sleazy for the boss to ask LW to get the info in this way.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Fully agree, this needs more active intervention than ‘forgetting’ to ask the friend though (which is a legit tactic in some situations); the boss has asked you to engage in a type of corruption that in many places is illegal, and will be easily found out. If there is an ethics or compliance part of the company these requests need to be reported there. In any case when the boss asks this you need to refuse, and make a show of it so that it will be remembered by others.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Yes. If you don’t want to go that far, I’d say when you asked your friend they said it would be corruption/illegal/a firing offence. (And the conversation with your friend would be to tell them this is the plan, being clear you are not actually asking them for the info).

        1. Everything Bagel*

          Or tell your manager from the start that you’re afraid this is a violation and will not be comfortable doing it ever.

          1. SomeWords*

            That would be my instinct too, because I’m terrible at subtlety. The upside is that being direct should forestall a repeat of this ask.

    3. Green great dragon*

      It would be interesting to ask your manager whether they are OK with you sharing your confidential info in return.

    4. bamcheeks*

      This might be the case, but there are lots of settings where this information might be considered commercially sensitive by the company but there would still be no major ethics violation to share it. LW, it’s still ok to decline to do this even if it’s NOT an ethics violation or breaking the law!

      1. doreen*

        I agree that it’s not always illegal or an ethics violation. Just as an example there’s nothing illegal or unethical about the owner of a hardware store finding out how much the competition charges for a hammer – and I can’t see why it would be illegal for Wholesaler A to find out what Wholesaler B is charging for that hammer. Price fixing is often illegal but that involves an agreement and therefore a conspiracy. It’s not price fixing if A finds out what B is charging and charges less without any agreement between A and B.

        1. amoeba*

          No, but I’d say if A and B openly discuss their prices, like the boss here suggests, it would at least go in that direction, wouldn’t it?

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            I took it more as trying to find out so they could undercut the price — thus getting people to buy Company A’s produce than Company B’s.

            The difference between the hardware store analogy and this is that the Hardware store guy can go in the store and see the price of an hammer. In this case, the price is hidden and you can only get it by basically corporate espionage.

            OP — do not do this. Make it clear to your boss that you will not.

          2. doreen*

            Maybe – or it might be that B wants to set their price lower than A or wants to get a sense of what the market price is. I’m not saying the OP should do it – I wouldn’t. I just don’t believe it’s always illegal or an ethical violation to ask a competitor how much they charge. The difference between the hardware store owner checking the competitor’s price by going into the store and asking an employee of the competitor the price is only in what will be the consequences for the competitor’s employee for divulging the information. In general , if there isn’t any agreement to fix prices, there’s no difference between me asking for price information from my competitor’s employee and me asking for price info from my competitor’s customer.

        2. H3llifIknow*

          That’s a very different scenario. You’re talking retail vs. client rates. As a govt. contractor, knowing what another contractor’s “wrap rate” (in simplest terms “overhead” or “multiplier”) is could be very helpful when doing our pricing model. On multimillion dollar contracts if we knew that Company X used a 2.2% wrap rate, and we could undercut them by using 1.9% would give a huge advantage oh and someone giving us that information? Illegal. How do I know? There was a huge scandal at our company and people got fired because govt. contacts gave them other companies info and TOLD them what they needed to price out at to win the work. Biiiig difference between “Lowe’s charges $15 for a hammer; we should charge $13.99” … and asking what the behind the scenes rates are.

          1. I Have RBF*

            Yeah, that multiplier number may have to be divulged to the the agency on various types of contracts, as well as how it’s calculated, but that information is very much proprietary trade secrets. You don’t tell competing bidders the number for other competitors. That’s why they have NDAs, etc.

    5. Marion Coatesworth-Haye*

      As a lawyer who has written these kinds of corporate trainings, I can’t tell you how reassuring this comment thread is! Obviously I can’t give the OP legal advice, but we frequently use just this type of example in such trainings as a cautionary tale (often followed by real life examples involving jail time…).

      1. Fernie*

        Yep, I thought immediately of our corporate training that warned us that this was extremely forbidden behavior. The message is getting through!

    6. LW#2*

      Thank you! I’m letter writer #2. To add a little more context, we’re a small (fewer than 10 people) niche consulting firm. I understand the concerns about ethics if we were making widgets, but our work product and pricing is always a bit of an art, so that’s why this seems a little different to me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if our prices are reasonable for our market because it’s so small, so i can see how benchmarks can be useful, but the request still made me feel uneasy (and fwiw, I did “forget” to ask him in this particular case, as some other commenters suggested). If it’s helpful context, the friend I was requested to ask about pricing is the owner of a similar firm, not just an employee. Forgive me for my ignorance here, there comments are very helpful, and I appreciate you all!

      1. LarsTheRealGirl*

        There are industry benchmarking and other reporting/tools that you can avail for this type of information. You can usually find these through trade organizations, or even your audit firm. But I think this type of pricing is exactly what could constitute an ethics/legal violation. Widgets are easy to price and the information is more often readily available.

        If you happen to work in government contracting or other work where you receive grants from the government, this is more likely to actually be illegal.

      2. Dancing Otter*

        That actually sounds worse than if it were widgets.
        For widgets, it’s relatively easy to research prices. If not by walking into a store, by calling and posing as a potential customer.
        Any time prices are set via bids or RFPs, those rates are confidential. What if two or more firms are competing for the same consulting project? You said you’re niche, so it probably happens, right?
        I don’t see an ethical difference between that and competing for a construction contract: X would love to know how much Y proposes to charge, and Y would be legitimately angry if someone told them.

        BTW, I spent 10+ years as a consultant. This would have been a firing offense. Also a good way to have former friends.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Agreed. I used to work in environmental consulting, and we did government contracts. People involved in bidding were very clearly told about what and why not to disclose outside the company. I stopped working there over 20 years ago, the company no longer exists, and I still am uneasy about discussing their multiplier for federal jobs.

          Another funky thing: Lots of government RFPs require that you give them your lowest rate for the work, and have formulas for calculating your multiplier and “allowed” fee (profit). So a government contract might be allowed a multiplier of 2.05 (substantiated), but your private clients get charged whatever the market will bear, and get a multiplier of 3.0 or more.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think the main thing you need to do is stop telling your boss about seeing your friends outside of work at all.

        1. MassMatt*

          This. If boss doesn’t know who LW knows in the industry and what social plans they have, they can’t press for using their network like this.

      4. HonorBox*

        I think because it is more of an art, the ethics issue related to asking is far more troublesome. A widget is relatively easy to price and while there may be some variations in pricing from company to company, the cost of goods that go into the widget will be close to the same from place to place. There is some wiggle room in the additional costs that go into the pricing (labor, utilities, etc.) but there wouldn’t be that wide a variation. In consulting, pricing could take into account a far greater number of things and you could honestly run into accusations of collusion.

      5. BradC*

        Just to expand on this a bit, and to emphasize its not just an company/industry rule, look up the “Sherman Antitrust Act”. Here’s a summary of the act according to the DOJ:
        “This law prohibits conspiracies that unreasonably restrain trade. Under the Sherman Act, agreements among competitors to fix prices or wages, rig bids, or allocate customers, workers, or markets, are criminal violations. Other agreements such as exclusive contracts that reduce competition may also violate the Sherman Antitrust Act and are subject to civil enforcement.”

        1. LW#2**

          Oh my goodness–I’m going to take some time to understand this better. Thank you for the resources–I realize now this may be bigger than my own personal discomfort.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Your instincts were right–there is something fishy about what your boss asked you to do. It just might be much older and stinkier fish than you realized!

      6. Hannah Lee*

        I think my approach would be to minimize opportunities for boss to make these requests by not sharing as much about my social circle and non-work activities.

        There will be some industry/area events that might be more networking friendly, or other jobs where your contacts, networks are part of what you were hired for. But in this case, gatherings that are just you hanging out with your friends shouldn’t involve you having to do your boss’s bidding.

      7. MigraineMonth*

        I think two important questions would be:

        1) Would your boss be comfortable sharing your pricing information in return, or is that considered sensitive info?

        2) Could discussing pricing information with competitors hurt the clients (because they can no longer go with the lower bid)?

      8. CM*

        I don’t know if this is actually good advice, but just throwing it out there — if saying no to boss wasn’t a good option, I might instead say to the friend, “Boss told me to ask you this, so I’m asking you, but if I were you I would decline to answer for competitive reasons.”

    7. Don't Be Longsuffering*

      Hey Jim, I’m going to ask you a question later today. Please tell me you will not answer it.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Reminds me of a line from BBC Sherlock.

        Mycroft: “I am going to make you a job offer I would like you to decline”
        seconds later:
        Mycroft: (makes offer)
        Sherlock: “Thank you for your kind offer.” (declines offer)

    8. TX_TRUCKER*

      Sharing pricing would be against the rules in my company, a d a strictly enforced NO. But my husband works in the non-profit world and this is very common and even encouraged in his realm. The OP mentioned competing for grants. Hubbie always calls or gets called by “competitors” on pricing and other expenses when preparing grant applications. Prices are often a small portion of the award decision, that sharing this information is not considered confidential. Instead it helps all these niche NGOs develop a stronger application.

    9. Texan In Exile*

      That set off alarms for me, too! I worked for an F100 and we were told never to discuss pricing with competitors. A co-worker was at a trade association meeting in Europe and someone brought up prices. He got up, left the room, and called the legal department to let them know what had happened and that he had removed himself from the conversation.

      (Like – the CEO of my company couldn’t even say something in the press like “There is too much capacity in the market and that’s driving prices down” because that would be signaling, which apparently is illegal.)

    10. Kate*

      I’m going to be reply on the other side of the fence from most commenters – I work in the construction industry, where bid pricing is always released. No, I may not know the little ins and outs of how you got to your number, but at the end of the day I know how much my competitors were willing to do a certain job for. In that setting, it’s not that unusual to ask around about general pricing for typical jobs just as a benchmark. It’s also not uncommon for a company looking to break into a new market to do a few “ghost bids” where they go through the motions of coming up with a price for a job but then don’t submit it just to be able to compare with the prices that do get submitted. It’s also a very casual industry in general, where it wouldn’t be unheard of to ask about pricing in a social setting. But I think it depends a lot on the relationship and on the industry, and LW shouldn’t do anything they aren’t comfortable with.

    11. jojo*

      It is called industrial espionage. Though that usually is intellectual knowledge I expect they could extend it to pricing scale as it is insider knowledge

    12. Princess Sparklepony*

      Glad I’m not the only one who’s eyebrows went up at that. I’ve been out of the workforce for a good long time (but for some reason I love this website and all the questions. I learn so much!) and I was thinking that asking about competitors’ pricing might get you into a price fixing jam. And that is not good.

    13. Nina*

      In my country this is extremely illegal (like, there have been sporadic TV and newspaper adverts about how extremely illegal this is for about as long as I can remember) and in companies that don’t like doing extremely illegal things, it’s accepted that if your personal friend works at another company in the same field, you do not ever talk about work with them and cannot be asked to, to avoid going anywhere near the electric fence of extremely illegalness.

  4. Zelda*

    Also, LW2, quit telling your boss about your social engagements. He can’t interfere if he doesn’t know.

    1. Sleve*

      Sounds like the most recent request wasn’t tied to a social engagement, and in such a small industry it might be difficult not to know who knows who. Still worth doing, but it might not be the full cure.

    2. Jesshereforthecomments*

      This is what I was coming to say. Information diet, LW! Definitely stop telling your boss who you see, talk to, or are friends with. And become a broken record if he does ask something. “Oh, I don’t talk shop after work or when I’m out socially.”

    3. Petty_Boop*

      Right? If the FBI were asking for information, my boss couldn’t tell them the name of my best friend, let alone social contacts outside of work. I’m not sure he’d remember my husband’s name! Either the letter writer is an oversharer of information OR is a name dropper. Either way, cut it out. Problem solved. “What are you doing this weekend?” “Oh hanging out with the fam. Cleaning house, maybe play some cards with the neighbors.” The answer is NOT “Having dinner with Sue from *Competitor* and chatting about work”!!

  5. A*

    #2 reminds me of when I worked for WF briefly back in 2010 and we’d be asked to write down a list of 10 or so family/friends that could be used as sale contacts. There’s a reason they were found to be hugely unethical!!

      1. BankTellerNoMore*

        Wells Fargo, but all the banks did that. “Bring a checking account” Fridays were a thing (amongst so many other weird expectations). You were expected to hustle a friend or relative to open a checking account at the branch you worked at. Even if they already had one, or didn’t like that particular bank, or lived 20 miles away from the nearest branch, etc. Good times!

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          A few years back, I worked for an organization that used Wells Fargo to administer their retirement benefits. I never signed up, because I didn’t trust them with my information. Because I pay attention to the news.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            Definitely not for asking what other stores charge for things. They do not care if you can get carrots at Aldi for a buck and a half, their carrots are $5.99, all day, everyday!

      2. Sarah*

        In my industry (small, niche, people stay forever), it is very common for people to leverage personal relationships for business reasons. So it’d be a problem if an employee would not do that. The question about pricing is anticompetitive, however, and is illegal to ask in many places.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      And here I thought it was the redlining, reverse-redlining and secretly signing people up for accounts/services they never agreed to that got Wells Fargo in trouble.

      Thanks to the scandal becoming headline news, I finally took the time to chase down this tiny 15 cent charge that kept showing up on my credit card statement every few months. Turns out that I had, without my knowledge/understanding, signed up for “credit card insurance” that charged me a monthly fee based on the amount I spent on the card (even though I always paid the balance).

      I closed that account, signed up with a local credit union, and I’ve never looked back.

  6. PDB*

    LW4: I used to be in the record business and we-I mean everybody in the business-got that week off with pay, no PTO.

    1. HowdyHelp*

      That’s what I’m used to also! If the business is closed, that’s a them decision, not me. If it’s open, people can choose to take PTO. But, reading these comments, I’m realizing that is not the norm.

      1. Gumby*

        I’m not sure there is one norm. I’ve had 3 jobs and all 3 treated it differently. Time off w/o using PTO; time off must use accrued PTO or borrow from next year; 3 holidays and if you want other days off you have to use PTO.

        But the whole “if the business is closed that’s a them decision” thing? Let me tell you about my friend whose current company announced several week long furloughs spread throughout the year that had to come from accrued PTO or be unpaid (only available as an option if you have no PTO). Yeah.

    2. FrivYeti*

      In my old job, there was a week off over Christmas; salaried employees got the week off with pay, but our few hourly employees had to choose between using vacation days or taking the week without pay.

      I argued that we should support our staff with a few days of extra paid vacation, but was overruled.

    3. Bee*

      My industry is split – my former company closed but I had to take PTO, at my current company we’re open so I (obviously) have to take PTO if I want that week off, but the largest companies in our industry have since 2020 just shut down for the last week or two of the year, which makes me intensely jealous. I do think my current company’s model is perfectly reasonable, but since everyone we work with is closed we can’t get any business done that week anyway! I would LOVE a decompression week where I know I won’t be returning to a disaster of an inbox.

    4. I Have RBF*

      Most companies I have worked for that had that time off (usually a total of two weeks) had part of it covered by holiday, the rest by PTO. If I was a contractor, I was screwed – I wouldn’t get paid at all for those two weeks. Sometimes I could agree to take the “on-call”, and get paid that way for part of it.

    5. Princess Sparklepony*

      I was in the record industry in the mid 90’s for about 6 years and I don’t think we got the time off but so many people took that week off that the office (and building!) was a ghost town. I think I usually worked it to save vacation for when I wanted to use it. But I used that week to goof off and do big messy projects that were hard to do with everyone in the office – revamping filing systems, sorting things, updating lists, cleaning out CD cabinets and swag cupboards to keep them current, changing up my desk organization, etc.

      I think the first few years I worked there we did get that week off, then they decided to change it to standardize it with the bigger parent company that made electronics who didn’t get that week off. Interoffice envy raised it’s ugly head and spoiled it for those getting a good deal.

  7. Sleve*

    #4 my old job used to do this. The way the employees pushed back together was by insisting that they didn’t want to take PTO and that they’d just come in for that week. Management didn’t want to have to come in and supervise people over the Christmas-New Years period, and there wasn’t actually very much for staff to do at that time anyway – so in the end they caved and gave the time as additional paid leave. It only worked because a large number of employees banded together to make paying people the least painful option, but it can happen!

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      Sounds like the work is visiting kids in their homes. There’s simply no appointments over Christmas as families have other engagements. What are the employees going to do: show up at someone’s house unannounced and start doing physical therapy?

      1. Magpie*

        Sounds like there are no appointments because the business has decided not to take appointments that week so they can be closed. There are likely plenty of clients who would still want appointments if it was an option.

        1. Pet Jack*

          Right and for working parents and kids in school…perfect time to knock out some appointments over breaks.

        2. doreen*

          And physical therapy is usually scheduled a certain number of times per week- it’s not like a lot of other medical things where it doesn’t really matter if your appointment is a week before Christmas or a week after New Year’s. I would expect to miss one session due to a holiday but I wouldn’t want to miss three.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            With PT consistency is a thing. You can lose progress by taking just a week off. I have experienced that. I just had a problem with getting my appointments on the book and next week I only have one appointment because no one is available and the week after I have jury duty so I made a late in the week appointment.

            I’m not happy about only having one appointment a week for the next few weeks. I’m terrible about doing my exercises at home! (But that’s a me problem.)

      2. Student*

        I know this may come as a shock, but people who are not Christian also have kids who need physical therapy. This really depends on the area. There may be some Christian families who only celebrate Christmas for a day, and wouldn’t mind therapy during the rest of this week-long period.

    2. ANON fortune 100*

      My bloody company started doing this a couple years pre-pandemic because there were 3 paid holidays in 1 week.

      But they went a step weirder and created the Orwellian name “mandatory floating holiday.”

      After TWO years of that name, the floating holidays simply disappeared, converted into assigned holidays.

      It’s galling and I resent it on behalf of my no-Christmas coworkers who would RATHER be off on Eid, Yom Kippur, Diwali, etc.

      1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

        We have three “floating holidays.” They have that name because they are occasionally moved around. We have both Friday and Monday off for Labor Day, except in years (like next, I think) when 4th of July falls on a Wednesday. Then, they take that floating Friday and give us three days off for 4th of July instead of the usual two. Otherwise, so many people would request vacation that it would be an issue.

        Once, IT had to do some work overhauling a computer system. They chose to take that day and use it for the first day we would have come back after New Years instead, since we couldn’t be in working otherwise.

        We have a floating holiday for 4th of July. I assume it’s only called “floating” because sometimes it’s the day after and sometimes it’s the day before, etc., depending on what day 4th of July falls on.

        We also have one for Good Friday. Since I’ve been here, that one has never moved, but I assume it’s floating “just in case.”

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I find it interesting they call July 4th a floating holiday, that’s just normal generally that it falls on a different date if the actual day is on the weekend–the same thing happens with Christmas. My understanding is that a “floating” holiday is supposed to mean that you can take it whenever you want.

          Like at my company, President’s Day and MLK Jr Day fall during a time that is particularly busy for my team, so for most of the company they are regular holiday days but for Finance they are considered floating holidays and we work those days and then take whatever time off we want later instead.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          This is interesting to read because that’s not what floating holidays mean at all where I work, and I’m glad to know that so I can better assess potential benefits at other places I apply to in the future.

          Where I work, a floating holiday just really means extra PTO that isn’t labeled as such, but that most people use to extend one of the federal holidays that falls on a non-Monday or Friday. Like, my boss said she always uses hers for Black Friday so that she has Thursday-Sunday off for Thanksgiving every year. Thanksgiving is a solitary holiday for me because all my family lives far enough away that it’s not really worth it for me to travel to see anyone for what is essentially a long weekend. Plus, no one ever needs anything urgent on that Friday so I can pretty much take it easy, get things done uninterrupted, and wrap-up an hour or two early. Instead, I used my floating holiday this year just to tack on to a week I was already taking several days of PTO. I love the idea of just having a free day that isn’t impacted by PTO accruals/tenure that I still get to take when I want. I’m much happier taking my floating holiday on a random Friday in May than I would be if I was forced to take it on Black Friday.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            I’ve worked somewhere that kind of did it both ways. There was one floating holiday that could be taken as either Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. Another that could be…I forget now but it was maybe Good Friday or some other holiday that wasn’t Christian or even religious but I can’t recall right now. On top of that we had 3 floating holidays that were “use them for whatever”.

        3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Our “floating holidays” are announced in the first quarter. We are told “hey, there are two floating holiday days this year. (sometimes there are three) Use them whenever you can before the end of the year.”
          The employee floats the day to his/her preferred day, not the company saying, hey, we are doing NYD next Wednesday.
          That would suck!

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Wait, they called it a floating holiday but you weren’t allowed to float it??

        My company tried making NYD a floating holiday one year and I’m glad that only lasted one year because I work in finance and making that not an official holiday moved all of our due dates up by a day so that was really annoying. Now it’s back as an official holiday.

  8. Bethany*

    PTO over Christmas and New Year is really common in Australia. Most offices close for two weeks, and you have to take 7 annual leave days (the remaining days are public holidays for Christmas, Boxing Day and New Years Day). I actually really love it, even though it’s forced. It’s our summer so it’s a great time to do it, holidays are less stress, most of your friends and family are also off so you can hang out all the time, there’s no worries about coverage or work questions because all the other businesses are closed too. It’s a nice opportunity to relax and reset every year and it’s great for mental health.

    Statutory minimum is 20 days of annual leave in Aus, so you still have a minimum of 2.5 weeks extra leave on top of that each year. And leave always rolls over so you can save up for longer trips.

    1. Varthema*

      The group reset is great, but I live in Ireland where we also have substantial leave and the practice is common (my husband’s firm does it) and still think it’s poor practice to make employees take it out of their own bucket for the reasons that Alison mentioned.

      In our situation, I worked in a job that required coverage during that week, which meant most years I COULDN’T take off, so the fact that there was always a third of our PTO eaten up by time that we didn’t have the option of taking together was annoying. sometimes it’s nice to take PTO separately, but I’d still rather that be my choice so that the years when we have, say, a billion weddings and family events, we can still take them all together!

    2. londonedit*

      It’s broadly the same here in the UK. In my industry (book publishing) it’s traditional to close between Christmas and New Year. Here the minimum annual leave entitlement is 20 days plus public holidays, and Christmas Day/Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are public holidays (or if they fall on the weekend, then the next weekday(s) will be a holiday in observation). Our office closes at lunchtime on Christmas Eve, so the shutdown period is 3.5 working days. The way I’ve usually seen it handled is that if you’re in a job with the minimum 20 days’ annual leave, then you won’t be asked to take the 3 or 3.5 days out of your leave entitlement – it’s given as company shutdown on top of your annual leave. If you’re in a company with a more generous leave entitlement, say 25 days, then I have encountered companies where they ask you to save 3.5 days for the Christmas shutdown. Personally I don’t think that’s ideal – I think if the company is physically closed then employees shouldn’t have to take that closure out of their own leave. Luckily, where I am, we get 25 days and we also close between Christmas and New Year with no need to take those days out of our annual leave.

      I should also point out that annual leave is holiday here and has nothing to do with sick time – that’s completely separate and you’re not expected to use annual leave if you’re unwell.

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        For us it’s kind of added in just to be taken out again – we usually have to take 4 days for the Christmas closure (plus 4 bank holidays), so our allowance is 4 days more than it would be otherwise, and if it’s one of the odd years when we only need 3 days for Christmas we end up with a bonus day.

        In the original letter it sounds like what is driving the decision is not so much whether the employees celebrate Christmas as whether a significant number of the clients do (or at least have different plans during the school holidays, if there are older kids).

      2. WheresMyPen*

        I’m also in book publishing in London, and we usually have to use 3 days’ holiday between Boxing Day and New Year, and then the company covers the rest. But since Covid, they’ve ‘gifted’ us those three days as a gesture of goodwill so I’ve had my full 25 days to use throughout the rest of the year which has been great. I’m hoping they keep doing it indefinitely because it is a bit annoying to have to save those 3 days to use at Christmas and not accidentally spend them during the year.

    3. Phryne*

      Here in the Netherlands, it comes out of vacation days as well, but the law states that mandatory days of have to be announced before the start of the calendar year so you know what to plan for. So compulsory days off between christmas and new year 2023 had to be announced before Jan 1st 2023. This also goes for holidays and feast days themselves, as obviously these are not automatic free days for lots of people in eg the service industry.
      But we do have quite a few days off in a year, we get about 10 days compulsory in a year, and then, depending on industry, you’ll still have about 3 weeks left. To have 5 days compulsory off when you have a total of two weeks in a year is ok in my opinion, no matter how long in advance you know.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is so interesting to me. Does the Netherlands also have days off that are not compulsory to come out of PTO, like our Federal holidays in the US? Or are all holidays coming from your own PTO allotment there? For something like Memorial Day or Fourth of July, it’s typical that there’s no work and you know the date in advance, but you do get paid and it’s not out of your PTO. Mind you, not all US companies follow the Federal holiday schedule, either in its entirety or at all, but

        1. Phryne*

          I’m no expert here, but as far as I know they always come out of your payed days, because there is no such thing as a day no-one works. People in hospitals, supermarkets, police and fire, public transport all are generally expected to work on some of the days most people get off, and people working in those industries will not have any guaranteed days off, so they plan who will work when.
          We have a legal minimum of 4 times the hours nominally worked per week as time off. If you work fulltime, so either 36-40 hours, that will give you 144-160 hours/ 4 weeks leave. But a lot of labour here is regulated by collective work agreements (those are made between the government, branches of industry and the unions) and those can specify more days off for an industry, and I think that those also specify compulsory days off and the like.
          I work in education, so in my case there are compulsory days off as the schools are closed (the government does decide school days off) and so my employer makes us take time off as well. Most people don’t mind to much, we have close to 10 weeks of vacation anyway, so 10 days compulsory is no skin off our noses.

          1. Phryne*

            Forgot to mention, we do have national holidays, (Kingsday!) but generally that means that you get paid extra on that day if you do have to work, rather than you get the day for free if you don’t.

    4. Higgs Bison*

      I’d rather have a week less of leave and have it not come out of that bucket than have to constantly remind myself that 40 extra hours of leave left is what I have to define as 0.

      Also, it makes a difference if you’re in the US where 4 weeks of PTO is considered generous.

      1. amoeba*

        We have the days automatically planned in our timekeeping/PTO system at the beginning of the year, so that’s not a problem, at least! (And people are allowed to work – from home, office is closed – with an exception from line management if there’s a business reason for it, so I understand why they don’t just give everybody a few days less of PTO…)

        It works fine for us and is also really, really common in our industry. But yes, with 25 days of PTO plus flex time and unlimited sick leave, that’s obviously less of a problem than with, say, 10 days or combined sick leave/PTO, or whatever. Also, it’s never more than 4 days of PTO, often less, depending on when the holidays fall – we get the actual holidays plus two half days for free.

      2. doreen*

        I can never figure out why employers don’t just do that – after the first year , 3 weeks of vacation plus a week-long paid shutdown isn’t any different from 4 weeks vacation but you have to save a week for the shutdown. ( I say “after the first year” because of the job where I was hired in mid November and got 10 paid days off at Christmas. )

      3. working mom*

        I work in an industry that always and has always closed the week between Christmas and NYE; as well as a week in late summer. This is how my past and current jobs handle PTO. Our vacation time is 2 weeks less than industry standard. Sure is annoying sometimes that 10 of my “PTO” days are locked into specific dates, sure. But given I work a job that never really slows down and fires (that I am expected to resolve) occur year round – it is nice to have a guaranteed 2 weeks off where everyone else is off too. It means not coming back to 1500 emails. I think it is just crazy that a employer would close that week and not account it in their PTO package – it just seems like an easy way to breed resentment.

    5. Pet Jack*

      I would consider that as having 7 fewer days off then. Because they are “holidays” which are generally already built into the calendar. I think if an office is closed, then that is on the business. I’m in the US and when a holiday falls on a Tuesday or Thursday they will give us off Monday or Friday so it can be a 4 days weekend, but they absolutely “gift” those days.
      Now, if you have like 40 days PTO per year, not a big deal. I recently got a new job and lost all my days I built up at my old job and I only get 25 now and honestly I am finding it a bit restrictive.

      1. Sloanicota*

        Yes, I never minded not getting the week of Christmas off automatically at my prior job, because we could choose to work it or we could choose to take it as vacation, which seemed very fair to me, and honestly less Christian-centric anyway (although I do celebrate personally). My current job is closed that week but it doesn’t come out of our scanty PTO, which also seems fair and above board. Forcing people use their limited PTO that way seems crappy, but slightly better than another way I have encountered, which is that the office is closed *and there’s no pay* for that week, which I believe is also perfectly legal here but really crappy.

    6. Sharkie*

      I am in the states, but I am in an industry where our busy time of year is Sept – June so we have our “Christmas break” the week of Fourth of July. I freaking love it and we do it since our industry simply doesn’t have work/ life balance during busy times. They do have to do some weird PTO math to make it so we only have to “lose” a day of PTO ( sometimes HR “forgets” to take out the day) but it mostly works out!

      1. The Taking of Official Notice*

        I would love to know what industry! The only ones I can think of are public accounting or maybe some sort of trade.

    7. Michelle Smith*

      Ah okay, see in your situation it makes a bit more sense to me because a certain level of PTO is mandated by statute. So I can see why a business might want to cut into that pool of PTO for the holiday time, but frame it this way in order to remain compliant with federal laws.

      Here in the US where I am, I am not required to be given a single solitary day of PTO. So it really does not make sense to tell me “we’re giving you 10 days of PTO, but you’re required to take 4 of them on these specific dates.” Then it’s just a fiction you’re using to make your PTO numbers sound better than they are. In reality (in this hypo), I have 6 days of PTO and I will get paid when the business is closed for a week in December. Framed that way is just more honest IMO.

    8. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I think it would be far more acceptable if we had the kind of leave you do, but in the US, many companies limit you to 10 or 12 PTO days in a year, and you have to use it for all leave, including sick leave. If they took a mandatory 7 days, you might only have 3 to 5 days left for the rest of the year, and, as I said, that would include sick leave and medical appointments. I fortunately work for a state agency with very generous leave (by US standards), but I am guessing the company in question is on the more common stingy side when it comes to PTO.

      1. Bethany*

        That includes sick leave and medical appointments too?

        For us, 20 days is for fun. Plus 10-ish public holidays. Then we get 10 days sick leave, and as-required bereavement leave, parental leave, domestic violence leave, long service leave (if you work for a company for 10 years in a row you get two months off) and sometimes community service leave (like jury duty or volunteer firefighting). That’s all required by the law.

  9. Mister_L*

    # 1 After being a reader of this site for some years, I still can’t wrap my head around what some people seem to be thinking. It’d guess OldBoss is more concerned with being able to brag about former employees finding jobs at prestigious companies than if his current employees can / want to find these jobs.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, this boss’s behaviour is so weird. It’s like he felt threatened by the education that he encouraged the OP to get in the first place!

      1. Mister_L*

        I admit this is just a guess, but due to the boss “taking pride at those who move onto prestigious companies in the field” in combination with the “I’ve begged her to apply to prestigious companies, but months later, she remained. I’ve laid her off so she can have more time to focus on job applications.” part in the letter I suspect it’s more of a stroking the boss’s ego by being able to tell himself he’s launched peoples careers thing.

        The letter sounds like he’s now trying to frame this as a “look, I’m a good person, I’ve helped them come out of their shell” thing.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          My interpretation was very different (though I can see that one too). My guess was that he wanted rid of her for some reason (perhaps as The Prettiest Curse suggests, he was threatened by her education (though then why encourage her to get it?)) but didn’t want to lose her mother as a client and was afraid she’d take her business elsewhere if he fired her daughter, so instead he tried “encouraging” her to leave. Then when that didn’t work, he ended up firing her anyway and making up an excuse to the mother.

          I mean, it still makes no sense on a whole load of levels, both why he’d want to fire her after being apparently pleased with her work for so long and why he’d think her mother would take her business elsewhere if her daughter was fired but not if she was bullied out of the company. But I can see any interpretation that isn’t completely bananapants.

          1. Knope Knope Knope*

            I’m guessing he encourages people to get experience and their education and leave because he can’t/won’t afford to keep promoting or giving raises after a certain point and LW just didn’t move on. The letter was probably an attempt to spin it positively and not lose his client/LW’a mom, but a really crappy one.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              This is exactly what it sounds like to me. It does not at all make sense that he would push LW to get a degree and then all of a sudden would feel intimidated by that degree. He’s trying to churn through employees at a lower cost by pushing them out (and up, at least) when they get to a point that they’d be too expensive to keep on. I would not be surprised if he’d hoped the mom would share the email with LW so he didn’t have to explain himself to LW directly.

            2. Chaordic One*

              There’s 2 things going on, the job situation and the firing, then the weird email.

              I agree with what you’ve said about the job situation and I’ve seen it several times. The employee gains a lot of good experience but, for whatever reason, doesn’t move on to that next step that the old boss can’t provide, but thinks they should move on to. Sometimes a bad economy will mean there’s no next step for that person to move to, or maybe they just don’t interview well. Maybe they’re happy where they are, and if that is the case (as it seemed to be with the OP) then the employer should be happy with an employee who does their job.

              Occasionally, there will be an employee who can’t find that next step and who will slack off of develop an attitutude because they are frustrated that their employee won’t (or more likely can’t) provide the better compensation that should come with all of the additional skills they’ve gained. Sometimes if the employee responds that way they might be deserving of being let go. But that certainly doesn’t sound like what happened here.

              The email really comes off as a bad attempt to CYA.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Agreed. If there was nothing else wrong with OP’s work for said company, then why was it his problem to solve? People stay at companies for various reasons and OldBoss should only have been concerned with what OP did on his clock/dime. Laying OP off was…weird.

                Emailing the mom was weirder. I very much agree with, “I hope your mom lets him know this is weird on every level and takes her business somewhere else.”

        2. Ellis Bell*

          I agree with this. I also found it particularly interesting that he just treated OP like a marionette and explained nothing about these plans for her except what she was broadly expected to do next, (‘get a degree’ or ‘ugh, please leave’) however with her mother he was full of explanations about what he didn’t manage to achieve with OP’s career! I also find it wild that he is trying to paint himself as some kind of kingmaker when there is very little that he actually did. I have met the kind of bosses who see their outfit as “this is where numerous Industry Rock stars got their big break” and the success of former employees almost always has nothing to do with them, unless you count a baptism of fire as training. The only reason these types of boss cling so much to the idea of being a launchpad is because they know people have to leave in order to be successful and well paid.

        3. Sloanicota*

          It’s so weird to me that he’s so concerned about OP “stagnating.” Perhaps he really did perceive some sort of drop-off in her performance that he attributed to her being bored and unchallenged – senioritis or something – but it seems he would have emphasized that specifically if so. It’s really not a big deal for someone to stay in a role where they are happy and presumably successful! People do it all the time! It’s really not a problem he needs to solve!

          1. Saraquill*

            LW1 here. I was stagnating, in part because it was a small company with little room for advancement. Only part. The rest of it was OldBoss and BossWife pulling me from the roles I had training and experience with. Then they complained about the quality of work they gave me with minimal to no instructions.

            1. Michelle Smith*

              None of that is on you. None of any of this is your fault. I hope you know that. You were mistreated and I’m sorry about that. I hope you’ve landed (or will soon) someplace much healthier and less toxic.

            2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

              “Let’s get her fired up.”
              They really misunderstood the assignment.
              So for subsequent job interviews, “why did you leave your last position?”
              What did he think?
              “I was fired, but it’s ok. If you you read this email he sent my mom, it was for my own good. Do you have flex time here?”

    2. bamcheeks*

      I don’t think it’s actually that weird to have a position that you think of as a kind of apprenticeship, where you expect to take an entry level member of staff, see them through their degree and then wish them well. If the work is simple, and the company isn’t large enough to have a full care path, that’s a perfectly good way to run that role. The weird part is not formalising it that way, by expressing directly that it’s expected to be a 5 year tenure and giving someone a clear end date. It’s the bullying and the email to mom that’s super weird.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes – boss would be totally in line to say that jobs at this place are for beginner folks, and have a limit of X years for how long people get to work there: they get some experience, the company gets to keep evolving / new ideas / whatever.

        But no need to add all this mindf*ck around this.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        It does sound like former boss wants to have this as a sort of apprenticeship role. It’s really weird to not make that official, though, and he’s acting strangely around it. Usually, companies offer training/apprenticeship roles because:
        a) cheaper labor
        b) some sort of tax advantage or the like
        c) creating a custom trained workforce for more advanced roles in the company, especially if it’s otherwise hard finding qualified people
        d) maybe thinking over-qualified people may get bored and leave quickly.

        c and d are clearly not the case here, and for b it would have to be an official apprenticeship. The letter doesn’t say if LW got a raise on completing her degree, so unsure about a.

        1. Saraquill*

          LW1 here. He gave me raises as I worked on and finished the degree, and hired new staff during the bullying time. Not sure how much his mindset was about cutting costs.

          1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

            This is the same mindset that thought bullying you, firing you and apologizing not to you, but to your mother is standard business practice.
            Instead of working with you to create a career path he blew up your spot. A grown up would have told you to start looking for a job, I will replace you in six months because you’ve outgrown this and best of luck.

      3. Sloanicota*

        Five years is really long for an apprenticeship! It’s understandable that people are going to get settled into the status quo after that long and not necessarily looking to move on, unless you are like rotating them through departments every year or something!

        1. bamcheeks*

          I said a kind of apprenticeship, not necessarily a formal apprenticeship. That said, an L6 degree apprenticeship in the UK is typically going to be three years if you go straight through and you might be in the job for a year before that, so it doesn’t seem outrageously long to me.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          It’s not that long if the person is also getting their degree! Feels like an acknowledgement of “you are currently working at school and here, so this apprentice program is intended to last through your degree and up to [time frame] after”. But agree with others, it needs to be a formal system if that’s what the boss wants!

      4. Smithy*

        Absolutely this.

        And while I understand that there are trades and career pathways that have formal apprenticeship tracks, there are plenty that could benefit from having a more formalized one or at least a mentorship component but don’t. So instead of having a formalized pathway, there are informal understandings of how those jobs are used as stepping-stones. However, if you miss out on realizing that those jobs are never meant to be careers, it can lead to misunderstandings that unfortunately can result in unprofessional and cruel efforts to transition someone out.

        Right after graduate school, I worked for two years as a Research Assistant in a research hospital – and for the most part, those jobs were clearly entry level stop gaps either after undergrad, or part-time while someone did their graduate work, or a first job after receiving a graduate degree and making a decision about getting a PhD and then maybe a part-time job to hold while starting PhD course work. This hospital was also big enough that it did become a career pathway for some, but for the vast majority of us it served as that entry level position despite our bosses never telling us that. It was more conversations that happened among other Research Assistants. So if you wanted to figure out which researchers at the hospital were looking for career pathway Research Assistants, and what kind of studies those might be, and all of that – you’d learn that through conversations with the career pathway Research Assistants. If you talked to your boss about career growth, it’d be about what it would take to eventually become a Principal Investigator on a research study (i.e. getting a PhD and/or MD).

        This doesn’t forgive the boss’ poor treatment of the OP, but in pinpointing it – I think it can highlight other versions that are more common if hopefully less cruel or weird. Where essentially a boss can’t give you career growth, but instead of having that conversation in a helpful way does it in an unhelpful, unprofessional or perhaps mean way. My boss’ study could only keep me as a Research Assistant III – and he couldn’t guarantee that his next study would be funded with a Research Assistant at that level. It could be with an RA III but part-time or an RA II, and that’s just because of how his grant seeking process was going for his research. How that gets explained, especially when there’s a lot of ambiguity – unfortunately isn’t always the kindest.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          I also spent two years as a Research Assistant, and I agree with all of this. Those jobs aren’t meant to be careers. There are lifers, but IME those are people who couldn’t step away from paid work for assorted lack-of-privilege reasons. You’re expected to go back to school and move on to something better. I can absolutely see a PI firing someone who is ready to move on, but won’t, out of a sense of moral obligation and desire to help that person progress in their career. The rest of it is bananas, but even so, I don’t think the motivation is unusual.

          1. Smithy*

            Absolutely. And while I think most people get those jobs understanding that, it’s not always formally called out which I think can compound the privileged dynamic.

            While this wasn’t my scenario, I did see other Research Assistants get really frustrated when their PI’s weren’t better professional mentors for them when they wanted career paths outside of getting their PhD. Or PI’s get weird in their management style when one grant was ending, and another hadn’t yet been finalized and the exact number of Research Assistants at what level hadn’t yet been formalized.

            This is never to excuse bad or cruel management, but just in the sense of learning your field – it can be helpful.

    3. niknik*

      This is pure speculation, but bear with me: Did boss promise someone else LW’s position ?
      Something along the lines of “Sure i can get you kid a job, Jeff. LWs place will be open soon when they move somewhere more fancy with their finished degree.”

      1. Harper the Other One*

        This sounds plausible to me. Boss promised and when LW didn’t move on as quickly as he was expecting, he kind of panicked.

        Alternately, maybe there are financial challenges and he was planning not to fill the position after LW left… which didn’t happen. So each month he was getting more stressed about being in the red.

        1. Sloanicota*

          I guess I can picture someone like this boss not being open about the fact that he has to downsize for financial reasons, which would actually be a much more acceptable reason than what he told OP (and … her mom). Perhaps the email to the mom is explicitly because he *doesn’t* want it to get out that the business isn’t so profitable these days, or something.

      2. Saraquill*

        LW1 here. During the start of the bullying campaign, he posted my main job on Indeed. He didn’t tell me, I only found out due to my own job hunt. My skilled work, that I got that degree for, was marked as an entry level, internship, minimum wage job. He never told me about my replacement, and had them work remotely so we wouldn’t cross paths.

        1. Elsewise*

          W H A T.

          That is truly bonkers. He hired someone to do your job and MADE THEM WORK REMOTE SO YOU WOULDN’T NOTICE?? What on Earth? With all the bananas and nuts this boss is bringing to the table, you could have a damn feast!

          1. Saraquill*

            It gets worse. My job was originally remote. Post degree, he made a big to-do that I had to work in office, there were assignments he needed me to do in person. This turned out to be an exaggeration.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          OK yeah so this boss is a jerk and you should not put much weight into anything they’ve said to you as we now know this person has terrible judgement and is simply not nice.

        3. An Honest Nudibranch*

          . . . Okay ya, this makes me wonder if OldBoss’s actual incentive was “Can I get away with paying a lot less for this role?”

        4. MigraineMonth*

          I feel that this is a really important detail to understanding why the Boss did what he did. Or rather, putting the craziness in context with the even weirder craziness. He secretly hired your replacement, who *secretly worked there* while you were still there??

          This site has taught me that some managers will go to amazing lengths to avoid the fundamental tasks of management. I’m gobsmacked that he thought the bullying campaign and secrecy were easier than just having an honest conversation with you.

    4. An Honest Nudibranch*

      Ya, I’m also baffled and deeply curious about what’s going on in Old Boss’s head. My best guess would be either a toxic paternalistic “I know what’s best for my employees” mentality (if he actually believes what he’s doing is “making LW 1 get a better job than X Company”), or he had separate reasons for wanting LW 1 gone and thought this answer would cause the least damage with LW 1’s mom.

      But both would still be weird. Particularly since the best way to broach “I want to let you know your growth might be limited at this company” is to talk to your employees. . . like adults. . . and not try to bully them into quitting. Old Boss definitely seems to have some questionable judgement, either due to believing this would be an effective way to help an employee “grow,” or due to believing that LW 1’s mother wouldn’t raise eyebrows at the idea of firing someone to give them “more time for job applications.”

    5. Squirrel*

      LW1, is your mum friends with your boss?What communication happened between then prior to that email?

      You don’t start an out of the blue unsolicited email with “I’m sorry for taking so long to write this.” And how would he even have her email address. Presumably either the LW’s mum emailed him to ask why he laid her off, or they were already talking about the LW.

      Needs more context because people are assuming he just found her mum’s email address somehow and send her this email completely out of the blue, but it doesn’t read that way. It reads like one email from a longer email chain.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        That’s a really good point. I got the slight impression somehow that it’s not the casual type of custom, but the kind of business that involves some relationship building.

      2. metadata minion*

        The letter says she was a customer, and if it’s some sort of custom-order type business or there’s otherwise a reason the business would be emailing her, it doesn’t seem that weird to me. Or it could just be the kind of place where customers spend hours in the shop and develop friendships with the staff.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        If she’s a customer it makes sense he would have her email. It seems like maybe he suddenly got worried that he’s lose her business because he laid off OP.

    6. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Or he’s like a long-ago boss of mine who over-expanded staff and was ashamed to admit he wouldn’t make payroll if he didn’t cut back. He also laid off someone after a month of suddenly toxic behavior.

    7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah, OP1’s former boss is way too emotionally involved in the ‘success’ of his employees (aka mentees, aka surrogate children, aka puppets). And the way he tried to shoo OP1 out of the nest is also really unprofessional and weird.

      If OldBoss wanted OP1 to leave the company after she got her degree, he could have sat her down and drawn up a 6-month transition plan instead of implementing a bullying campaign.

    8. Antilles*

      IF we assume the email is real rather than Boss trying to invent a fake justification…the thinking could be this:
      1.) The boss knows OP is pretty much maxed out since there’s no budget for a full second role, presumably a limit to what he’s willing to pay a support person, and she’s reached the limit of what she can learn in the support role.
      2.) The boss encouraged OP to apply elsewhere as a subtle hint of “hey, you’re at your ceiling here, time to leave for a building with more room to grow”.
      3.) Wait, why is she not getting this? How come OP hasn’t taken the hint? Let’s see if we can make it miserable to give more of a push to leave.
      4.) Okay, none of these hints are working, I’m just going to lay her off entirely so she’s forced to take that next step.

      #1 is a totally fair thing to have happen in a tiny company; it sucks but it happens. #2 is too indirect for my tastes (why not just say it directly?) but at least a semi-plausible next step if you’re conflict-avoidant since a lot of people would pick up on that hint. But then once that fails, the rest of it is straight up ridiculous, because the obvious next step isn’t “passive aggressive make things bad”, it’s to just have the awkward direct conversation and let that be that.

      1. Saraquill*

        LW1 here. I don’t know how much of his justifications were budget related, as he had no issue giving me raises during the bullying period, or hiring two new people.

    9. CommanderBanana*

      It is truly bizarre. My partner is being pushed out of her job because she got a master’s degree. In a relevant field! In a city where it seems like everyone I’ve worked with is working while simultaneously getting advanced degrees! It makes no sense. I think her boss, who doesn’t have a master’s, is jealous.

    10. Stopgap*

      It sounds like a paternalistic thing to me – OldBoss is trying to do what’s right for LW1, but thinks he knows what that is better than LW1.

      Or he’s lying to LW1’s mom to try to keep her a customer.

      1. Gumby*

        This is where I fell. He’s approaching this more as a pseudo-parent-ish thing than a manager. He’s seeing LW in a role that *he* conceives of as a job for a teenager or college student. Definitely not the type of job that a college graduate would have. (eyeroll) So because he knows best, he needs to help the little fledgling leave the nest. First with encouragement to apply other places, then by making the nest uncomfortable, then by pushing LW out of the nest.

    11. Lemoncat*

      LW#1 was a puzzler. Maybe he’s getting some kind of grant from the government or some NGO for every person that he mentors and trains, but those grants only cover set amount of years and terminate once person has their degree.

      And he’s not telling the LW#1 about it, maybe because there’s some kind of scholarship or grant money involved intended for that isn’t reaching the people he mentors. I mean, apparently money is no issue for him.

      A bit of a stretch I know, but greed is a timeless motivation for otherwise baffling behavior.

  10. ItHappensInTechSometimes*

    It tends to happen in manufacturing most often; it does happen in tech but mostly in manufacturing-adjacent tech. In my experience, the tech companies that do this also tend to be companies that don’t give much PTO to start with – the last one I interviewed at required you to use between 4 and 8 days out of 10 for the year (the entire week of Christmas until New Years; if the holidays fall on Monday (or Sunday) it’s 4 days but if they fall on Friday (or Saturday) it’s 8. Either way was unacceptable to me (10 days total wasn’t really acceptable either, but for an otherwise fantastic job I might have tried it if I had control over when they’re taken).

    1. amoeba*

      Yup, it’s very common to just close down the site, because it saves a ton of money if the labs etc. aren’t running for that week. Also, we have so few people that would actually be coming in that safety issues might arise (because being alone at work is not good!)
      It’s been normal everywhere I’ve worked – since HO is a thing, we can get exceptions from our line manager though.

      However, we have generous PTO – 25 days plus flex time – , get the actual holidays plus two half days off in addition, so normally it’s never more than 4 days max of PTO that we have to use to have a 10 day or so stretch off. And if somebody really doesn’t have enough PTO or flex time, we can borrow against next year or against our flex time hours. And it’s announced waaay in advance each year, I think those days were automatically put into the system in March or so.

      So, long story short: I don’t think it’s automatically a bad thing *if* done well.

    2. Distracted Procrastinator*

      I interviewed at a company that was manufacturing adjacent. They shut down for the last week of the year and everyone got PTO for it but it was the only PTO you got for the entire year. That’s it. NO vacation days any other time. If you took time off, it was unpaid.

      Needless to say, I didn’t take the job when they offered it to me. I have only 10 days at my current job but at least I get to decide when they happen.

    3. Sloanicota*

      You think they might have a freaking heart on the years when they’re requiring you to take eight out of your ten total days of PTO, and throw at least a couple more company-sponsored PTO days at the situation, which is completely within their power to do.

    4. Liz Lemon*

      It feels so misleading for a company to tell you you have a certain number of PTO days, then require you use them for certain things. For OP’s sister, it feels like instead of saying, for example, “we offer 20 days of PTO” they should say “we offer 15 days of PTO, and you get the week between Christmas and New Year’s off”.

  11. Myrin*

    I’m truly flabberghasted by OP #1’s boss’s behaviour. Like, it’s really cool that he encourages his employees to move on to bigger and better things if they so choose but shouldn’t he be happy when his employees, even once they have better/more impressive qualification, want to stay? I cannot for the life of me figure out his thought process here.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Plot twist: OP’s old boss moonlights as a recruiter for Prestigious Companies, and is on commission for that, but does not actually know how to be a recruiter outside of “I laid her off so she can focus on job applications.”

      Yeah that’s the only thing I can come up with. Boss is bananacrackers and I can’t wait to see him in at least the first round of voting for the worst boss.

    2. Iris Eyes*

      I would bet he sees himself primarily as a mentor and secondarily as a boss, if you switched this to a parent child relationship and instead of a layoff an ultimatum that you are taking them off the car insurance and rent now that they have their degree especially after a summer of increasingly naggy reminders without seeing any indication that said child is planning to take over those reins it suddenly starts sounding much more within the range of normality. It also calls to mind the “go be free” scene in a wild-animal-partially-domesticated movie.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It also calls to mind the “go be free” scene in a wild-animal-partially-domesticated movie.

        Boss is practicing TNR, but on humans and with “getting a degree” being the second step instead of “neutering”!

    3. Smithy*

      My theory on this is entirely biased by my own career history – so may have nothing to do with the OP’s boss. However, I’ve had a few jobs where sometimes it was clear when I started and sometimes it was only clear after I left that my boss had no ability to promote me or give me meaningful growth assignments.

      In the jobs where it was clear, the departure process was all very easy. In the jobs where this wasn’t, I often went through a period of tension with my supervisor of wanting growth assignments, feeling deserving of them, and also wanting a promotion/salary increase. Instead of my boss being more direct about how the size of our employer meant that there was room for a senior role and a junior role and nothing in between, there were a lot of goal post moving conversations or tasks where I was set up to inevitably fail.

      In retrospect, it was clear that he couldn’t have promoted me even if he believed I deserved it. And to be honest, those growth assignments I wanted? If he gave them to me, there wouldn’t be enough interesting work for him to do because of the size of the organization we were. And he wasn’t a good enough supervisor to have that conversation with me well.

  12. ina*

    #1: In no world is this normal. Wow. He doesn’t have a lot of demand to justify creating a promotion role and honestly, I can see in action. He clearly doesn’t have a lot of demands on his time, period, if he has time to worry this much about LW’s future and comes up with a plan to bully them…also I can’t help but feel this verges on hostile (maybe not in the legal sense but he outright admits what he was trying to do…to LW’s mom…under the guise of being some kind of guidance counselor-type character in LW’s life.)

    #2: LW, I’d say just don’t mix work and pleasure. It never works out in the long run unless you’re very clear with boundaries and that can be hard to juggle between boss and friend, as friend might be put off if they found out you were asking because your boss said something. If you’re competitors, I would also just be wary in general (you and friend) despite the personal relationship.

    #3: Theoretically, you have a promotion and potentially, you have a job offer. However, right now, you have no choices to make at the moment. Best to operate as if you have none and take them as they come. Which means if you get a promotion, take it because that’s the only choice you have now: promotion or no promotion. If you get an offer, accept it (if you want it more than your current situation).

    #4: This sucks. I can see why (as statistically that is likely a week many people want off), but wonder if you all could raise a stink about it. It’s not fair to others who’d want another week off. Personally, I save my PTO for the stretch of months with no holidays so I’d hate to lose days at a time of the year when 1) people have pretty much checked out so it’s slow and 2) there are already holidays.

  13. Sage*

    I’m horrified at the Situation of OP#1 (OldBoss bullying employee to push him/her out). In addition to what Alison already wrote, with which right does he decide where OP should be working or not working? OP’s life desitions are not his business.

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, that was what stood out to me. It seems like he somehow decided that staying at the company wasn’t good for OP and thus tried to force her out “for her own good”? That’s crossing so many borders! Like, sure, he can encourage her to start looking for higher positions or even offer to help her/write her a good recommendation/whatever. But now she’s unemployed because he decided her current position was “beneath her”? WTF?

      1. Sloanicota*

        This reminds me of when guys try to convince you they’re breaking up with you for *your* own good. I assume it’s because they don’t want to feel like the bad guy, but – No, my guy, if you have decided you want to break up, let’s assume that’s what YOU want, for your own reasons – don’t tell me how I feel or what I need!

    2. Saraquill*

      LW1 here. Not so fun fact: when he asked why I was still working for him, it was part of a bigger complaint about how I don’t spend enough of my free time job hunting. What I didn’t tell him is I have a life outside the offices and job applications, and I was too busy moving at the time to focus on the hunt.

    3. kiki*

      I feel like he watched a movie or tv show where a boss did something like this (pushing someone away for their own career growth) and didn’t realize it’s actually a wild overstep for a boss! People have stuff going on in their personal lives– not every period has to be one of career growth. And even if LW didn’t have anything going on, it’s their own business how they’d like their career to look!

  14. Irish Teacher*

    Weird as the e-mailing of the mom is, in some ways, it’s one of the more explicable (or perhaps less inexplicable, because it’s not that it’s not really weird, just that the rest is even weirder) parts of that boss’s behaviour. I guess he didn’t want to lose the mom as a customer and therefore made up an excuse that he thought made him sound better and that he thought would make her less likely to take her business elsewhere.

    But that doesn’t explain why he would suddenly start bullying the LW. And as Alison said, that is way more likely to make the LW’s mom take her business elsewhere.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      It makes me wonder whether he had already started bullying LW #1 and then suddenly thought, “Oh crap, her mommm!” then sent the email as a weird and inappropriate attempt at damage control.

  15. BofaOnTheSofa*

    Regarding the PTO, when I worked in Infant-Toddler home health, most of our clients chose to not schedule home visits that week. Our program didn’t require us to take the week off, but most staff did & it was very, very slow for those who were working. I can see it making business sense to close for the week.

    1. HonorBox*

      Absolutely makes sense to close. But if you get 10 days of PTO and are forced to take 3-5 days depending on how the actual holidays fall, you’re losing a large chunk of that benefit. If there isn’t work, the business should have a way to not penalize people.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Don’t forget the new employees! My husband once started a job in mid-November, only to find he immediately had to take the week after Xmas off – without enough PTO banked. So he had to take it unpaid – and no one had thought to warn him about it ahead of time. Delightful.

        1. I Have RBF*

          I had the same thing happen at one university job: started after Thanksgiving, shutdown between Xmas and New Years. Fortunately, most of the days were holidays, and I still had the “floating” holiday for that year, plus I got added in to the on call rotation for that time and got to claim a couple days pay for that. But people would always say “Be sure to save up PTO for the winter break.”

    2. Pet Jack*

      Then you really should still pay your employees, OR give them more PTO. Because otherwise when you are hired you aren’t really getting all the PTO you thought you did. PTO is to be taken for any reason at any time (basically, try and work around some work stuff) so this just raises my hackles.

    3. HowdyHelp*

      Yep – that’s the reason the company is closed, because there are not many visits (meaning there is not much income). In that case, when they tell employees they can’t come in, it seems absurd to make them take PTO.

      I liken it to a weekend – the business is closed, but you’re not taking PTO for that!

  16. bamcheeks*

    LW2, I would see this very much as a boss can ASK, but you can SAY NO situation. Don’t treat it as, “my boss has given me a work task that I must carry out in my private space”, but “my boss is asking me whether this would be appropriate and it’s up to me to set boundaries around my friendship/business relationships”.

    There are some friendships where, “oh, Pete said to let you know he’d still really like that recommendation for a conference venue in Candlewick Green you mentioned!” would be fine. If it’s something low stakes, not too time-urgent, just something where Tim said he’d look something up and send it over as a favour, I think that would be fine— it’s not too different from, “Mum says she’d still really like that recipe, if you managed to find it!” If it was more business- and time-critical—“Pete said you still haven’t sent the proofs for the Mouse Organ instructions— can you make sure you get it to him by Thursday because we want to go to print on Friday”, that would be a very different level of business-interference, and I would very much want to draw my line there.

    With the competitive-edge one, I’d turn it back to your boss: “Would you be happy with me sharing that kind of information with Tim?” If it is in fact commercially sensitive information of the kind *you* wouldn’t be able to share, I think you should draw a hard line there and explain to your boss that *you* don’t share that kind of information, and you’re sure Tim wouldn’t either. Make it very much a, “this is one of the ways I am a professional, of course you understand”. Again, it would be different if it was publicly available information or a more general, “what sort of profit did you make on that event?” type information, where you might expect a colleague to give you a ballpark figure.

    But assume that your comfort and professionalism and your friends’ comfort and professionalism takes priority here. Don’t feel that just because your boss asks you to do something, you have to do it unless it’s outright illegal.

  17. Sooth*

    What I really get ticked about is forced pto that is unplanned. Technically, we are open the day before christmas. but a lot of people want it as a half day. which, fine. but I don’t usually want to use up my (fairly minimal) pto on a half day for it. but I end up doing it a lot, because if I don’t, and stay, my boss will start yelling at me before the end of the day that he wants to leave. in that instance, I’ve lost the opportunity to use pto (not enough hours left in the day), had a time deduction for lunch (even if I’ve just taken it and could have gone home, essentially making me stay for no pay, even if I haven’t been working), and lost the hours from the rest of the day.

    Fun. of course, we could just be paid for the half day, but that would never happen.

  18. Yellow cake*

    LW4 as there any clients between Christmas and New Year? I don’t think it is reasonable to have forced shut downs when there is no interruption to your work and you continue to generate profit for the employer. But it is perfectly logical to force shut down when there is no work to be done. For many industries it is foreseeable that periods like Christmas-New Year, or the sporting holidays etc won’t have any work.

    Sure, it’d be lovely to be paid not to work – but many businesses don’t have that much leeway in expenditure. I guess they could offer less pay for more leave, which would suit some employees, but I understand why they offer higher wages and forced leave.

    Some FIFO workers get a grand total of zero days leave a year (public holidays etc included – their leave schedule is built in), others are only permitted to take full swings off, so if they need 1 day off they might have to use 4 or 12 days leave depending on the roster. A mate of mine used to have 4 month shut downs because there was nothing to do off-season. I don’t know if technically they were hired each season on contract, or if they had ongoing employment with a long shut down. There was no way they’d be paid for the off season!

    What is not reasonable is that your sister want properly informed of the deal so she could plan. But it does not sound like she’d be able to book clients. And I suspect if everyone was told they would open and needed to maintain full coverage many would be annoyed at losing the break when many of their friends and family would also have leave.

  19. cabbagepants*

    #2 — your boss is asking you to spend your social capital for him. Don’t do it. Presumably you have worked hard building these relationships that walk the thin line between friend and business in your niche industry. Messing up those relationships by asking awkward work questions at parties may help him in the short term but it will surely hurt you in the long term.

  20. Enn Pee*

    LW2 – I’d recommend just not talking about my weekend plans with my boss. You mentioned you’d see your friend, which sort of gave your boss an opening. Would the boss have asked about the friend if you didn’t otherwise say you’re going to see the friend? (You know better than I!)

  21. Shirley You’re Joking*

    #4– losing your health insurance over taking unpaid time off would only apply if you took so much unpaid time that you drop below the average number of weekly hours needed to be eligible for the insurance. For most plans, the requirement is 30 hrs a week. Going unpaid for one week is a non-issue. It would only matter if you took unpaid leave for a solid month or more and we’re not covered under FMLA.

    Their insurance argument against unpaid leave is really misguided. If getting the last week of the year as paid extra leave doesn’t pan out, I’d ask for more info about why unpaid leave isn’t an option. I don’t know their plan set-up, obviously, but I cannot imagine a scenario in which unpaid leave for one week would cause you to lose health insurance. (And really, if it did, you’d be eligible again on Jan 1 when you start working regular hours again.)

    1. uiscechick*

      In my first job I encountered a policy (after the fact, sadly) that if you took unpaid leave on either side of a holiday, you would not be paid for the holiday. I asked for and was given unpaid leave, but no one explained I would be giving up the state paid holidays as well. Just something to double check.

    2. HowdyHelp*

      Hi! Writer of #4 here. It’s not just the one week that is an issue – it’s that if someone has to take unpaid time in addition to that (for whatever reason), it can get them up to the limit to affect health insurance.

  22. HonorBox*

    1 – Super, super weird. I really agree with Alison and hope your mom sends a response to former boss. She should absolutely point out that, as your mother, she has no reason to hear from her child’s employer about things like this and she’s taking her business elsewhere.

    2 – I think a casual mention of needing follow-up when you see someone outside of a business setting is OK. If you have the chance, it shouldn’t be a big deal. But I wouldn’t go out of my way to search out my friend just to make that statement. Anything else – like the sharing of rates, etc. – is not only really challenging for a friendship, but is also unethical. Whether your friendships were forged through the business or not shouldn’t matter.

    4 – My company has, because of how the holidays have fallen the last few years, just closed for the few days that aren’t covered as paid holidays and everyone got those days as free PTO. We’ve made a change recently, however, to recognize that there may be other holidays (religious or otherwise) that people celebrate, and now we have added three floating “observance days” that can be used in conjunction with paid holidays (so you can still take the time between Christmas and New Year’s as paid days) or that can be used for other days – religious or otherwise. I think it is crappy to tell people they can’t come in to work and then force them to use paid time off. That time should be treated as any other holiday or day that you’re closed (Sundays for instance) should be treated.

  23. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW2: Stop telling your manager about your get-togethers with former colleagues / anyone else in your field! What you do on your own time is None. Of. His. Business. (unless you do something so publicly egregious that it hits the internet and reflects very, very badly on you and your company.) He does NOT need to know with whom you’re socializing, and he’s proved that he’ll only use that information to try to get you to manipulate your friends into spilling business secrets. Stop giving him that information; he’s not entitled to it and will only misuse it anyway.

  24. doreen*

    I’m not sure where “losing your insurance for taking too much unpaid leave ” came from, whether it was from the employer specific to this situation or from the OP or the sister about losing insurance after taking unpaid leave in general. because yes, you can lose your insurance after taking too much unpaid leave – but I’d be shocked if a week was “too much” anywhere. Insurance premiums ( to the employer) are unlikely to be billed on a weekly basis and nobody wants to constantly take people off insurance ( and later put them back on) because someone ended up being out sick for a week more than their PTO could cover.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Yeah, I’m curious about this too. I work in manufacturing and this is not unusual to have shut downs and let employees choose between PTO or unpaid time off. Insurance has never been an issue with taking unpaid time off. We also have a lot of employees who use up their PTO early in year as they tend to call out sick a lot and not having PTO doesn’t stop them from calling out sick and just not being paid. It’s never affected their insurance.

      1. HowdyHelp*

        Hi all! Letter writer 4 here. This is an issue with how their system is set up – one week unpaid doesn’t affect it, but if you have other unpaid weeks (for whatever reason), it can get you up to that limit.

  25. Bookworm*

    LW1: No advice, just chiming in to say that yes, that is weird. Boss maybe felt guilty at how it happened, especially as you’re related to a paying customer? Very strange and hope your mom goes somewhere else.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yeah – the email screamed to me of a desperate attempt to not loose your mom as a customer. The timing suggested that maybe it’s some sort of service purchased monthly – and OP got laid off just after the last purchase, so now former manager was trying to ensure mom would still be coming in for her normal purchase by sending a “smoothing the rough edges email.”

      Also, wonder if OP was trying/applying but there just weren’t the openings to move on that former boss thought would be out there? Also possible is that other companies have had bad experiences with other folks former manager pushed out so now they are reluctant to hire folks from there?

      1. Saraquill*

        LW1 here. I applied to places, but didn’t always get interviews. Even if I got interviews, very few places wanted to hire me, even if they liked my resume. While I was still employed there, I got one job offer. It was for more work at a lower salary, for someone who asked about my visa status and my religion.

  26. Knope Knope Knope*

    I suspect that OldBoss’s behavior can be explained by the fact that he wants his business to be seen as a place where early career professionals can get experience and work while getting an education that launches their career. The truth is probably that he doesn’t want to or can’t continue to keep up with raises for an employee who stays on for a long period of time and gains expertise. It’s all spin, and he probably believes it. The letter was an attempt to get the mom aka his customer to believe his actions were in LW’s best interest, but they were in his own. I also hope she took her business elsewhere.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      He should have just said there was no prospect of rises for the next 40 years – he’s not obliged to increase pay – and asked the OP if she still wanted to stay, rather than firing her “in her own interest”.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        Then he would have to stop lying to himself/others/his client/op’s mom and saying “my company is a great place to work that launches careers” and start saying “my company is a place where careers go to stagnate and stall.”

        Of course this is pure speculation. Curious what LW would say.

        1. Saraquill*

          LW1 here. I have no idea what OldBoss was thinking. Yes he liked to play mentor, but there was other staff who worked at the office longer than me.

  27. Ro*

    I am not American so maybe an American HR or employment law person can weigh in here. The fact that LW1 was “laid off” implies to me an elimination of the position (otherwise it would be a firing) does that fact that the boss openly admitted to LW1s mother that they were laid off “to focus on other applications” not because of not enough work. Open them up to legal action for falsely laying someone off?

    I know the US seems to have weaker employment protections and at will employment is a thing but LW1 wasn’t fired they were specifically laid off.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I guess something like 80% of the time, “laid off” and “fired” can be and are used interchangeably. The nuance is that “laid off” carries an air of exoneration that the employee of having done nothing wrong.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Interesting. I’m only aware of the implication of “laid off” versus “fired for cause” being that OP is probably better positioned to get unemployment as a layoff. I don’t think the unemployment people would care so much if there was a secret reason behind the layoff. I don’t think the US government is involved much either way so I’m not sure if anyone would care about it, but hopefully someone better qualified than me weighs in here (really enjoying how international the comment section is today!).

    3. Parenthesis Guy*

      In general, workers in the US work “at-will”, meaning they can be laid off or quit their job without notice. There are some rules about how you can legally lay people off, but none of them really apply here. The basic difference between being laid off and fired is that if you’re fired with cause you don’t get unemployment.

    4. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I don’t necessarily think it opens up to legal action unless the true reason lead to discrimination of a protected class. Most of America has ‘at will’ employment which means people can be hired/terminated for almost any reason as long as it isn’t discriminatory. And in this case, I don’t really think boss lied about lay off reason; The facts that LW1 was stagnating at work and had no upward movement so they made a decision to eliminate the position and decided to allow LW1 the time to focus on job applications can all be true.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        (Also I’m sorry for not using the term USA in place of America. I acknowledge that America compasses much more than the USA and I wish I could edit my post).

    5. doreen*

      Some of the time when “laid off” and “fired” are not used interchangeably , it’s because “laid-off” specifically refers to a situation where the laid-off workers get priority to return if work picks up rather than the employer being able to replace them with new workers. That typically involves a union. But there’s no such thing as legal action for “falsely laying someone off” – an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason, just not an illegal reason.

  28. Czhorat*

    Mandatory use of PTO for a holiday week is not PTO – it’s one week fewer of of PTO replaced by four(ish) days of paid holiday. That’s a poor bargain unless it was a week you really wanted.

    It’s legal, but they’re lying to you about what your compensation really is AND, as Allison said, reinforcing the Christian supremacy in this culture.

    It’s just bad all around.

  29. Jane*

    #1 — That is a messed up situation. I can’t help but wonder if the boss had some odd thought process like: I feel bad about laying this person off, I’m trying to make myself feel better by telling myself it will be good for them and they will end up getting a better job (which is a lot of mental gymnastics — how can you assume someone who was fired is now in a better position to move up to a better job?) and by saying all of this to Mom, I am trying to convey my thinking both to her and to the employee. And maybe she/they will even reply to me sympathetically (!) and I will feel even better about my generous and wise decision.

  30. MikeM_inMD*

    LW4 – Yes, forced PTO does happen in tech companies, even large ones. When I was working for a US-based, Fortune 500 top-10 company that was one of the top computer manufacturers in the world, we had mandatory PTO for Dec. 26-31 (Christmas and New Years were paid holidays). This came from the closing of the factories, but was applied to all divisions of the company, including software services where I was. We all grumbled about the forced leave but got around it, if we wanted, by providing on-site customer support (which was were I always was, anyway).

  31. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – I’m not trying to dismiss the situation at all but I’m curious about why you stayed? It sounds like the writing was on the wall before the lay off. You say yourself that at least 7 months before, your boss encouraged you to look for positions elsewhere.

    Regardless of your reason, there is no excuse for your boss to bully you out of work, or to email your mom. Your boss sounds like the person who thinks ‘tough love’ is what you needed to move in life.

    1. JustaTech*

      Not the LW, but I’m going to guess that the LW had been applying to new jobs, but as Alison says, a job hunt often takes longer than you’d like and 7 months doesn’t sound unreasonable. Especially if you’ve got other stuff going on in your life or it’s a slow-moving industry where there aren’t a ton of openings all the time (or jobs open up seasonally, like in May or September).

      So it’s entirely possible that the LW has been trying to lave for the whole 7+ months but just hadn’t found anything yet and didn’t want to quit without something else lined up.

    2. Saraquill*

      LW1 here. I stayed because I wanted the paycheck. I was also being picky about where I was applying to, as I refused to accept a lower salary, or switch to another unpelasant office. Also, if I quit, it would hurt my eligibility for unemployment insurance. Quitting would also mean giving OldBoss justification for mistreatment.

  32. Jess*

    #4 – A former company didn’t give us some of the federal/state holidays in lieu of getting the week between Christmas and New Years off. I hadn’t been told that when I was hired, just that we get that week off, so it was a shock when meetings were scheduled on Presidents’ Day.

  33. Parenthesis Guy*

    LW #1: I had a boss tell me after a few years of being at a job that I had gained all I could and should go elsewhere. It wasn’t that they wanted me to leave, but rather that it would be better for my career to leave. I was young and didn’t get it, and they were nice enough about it, but in retrospect he was right. I should have tried as hard as I could to leave at that point because I had grown out of the position. They would have done me a favor if they had fired me, although I wouldn’t have liked it at the time.

    After seven years during which your boss developed you, you too were ready for bigger challenges. He couldn’t continue to help your career at the current location, so he tried to get you to go elsewhere. When you wouldn’t go willingly, he fired you to make you leave. This is bizarre behavior, but is best characterized as tough love. Remember, it doesn’t help him if you leave after learning your position and becoming over-qualified. It helps you.

    At the time, it seems really mean. In ten years, you’ll realize you should be thanking him.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Boss could have just left the employee in the same role and explained there would be no further promotions or raises. (Instead, Boss kept giving LW raises and new tasks.) Firing someone “for their own good” (rather than the good of the business) is not good management.

        Bullying someone for their own good is never true. (It reminds me of a guy on reddit who claimed he talked over, belittled and stole ideas from a woman on his team “to give her a chance to stand up for herself”.)

        Personally, I look back on being fired from my first professional job as a great career move on my part, but I’ll never thank the job for being toxic.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      The thing is, even if looking back you wish you had left, it’s not your boss’s place to decide “You can do better, so I’m firing you”.
      They can tell you why they think you should leave, but firing someone solely because you think they should look elsewhere is incredibly condescending and inappropriate.

      Maybe they’re happy doing what they’re doing. Maybe they don’t want to move on. Maybe the job’s schedule or benefits fits their life perfectly.

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Your boss can decide it’s in the interests of the organisation that you leave but they should never decide that it is your own interest to fire you. They have neither the moral right nor do they have the detailled knowledge of your circumstances and future plans.
      That’s a massive overstep and would sounds a totally fake excuse from him anyway.

    3. Saraquill*

      LW1 here. I have no desire to thank someone who picked on me, nitpicked me to the point of criticizing my speech, and did nothing when others screamed at me.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        I think it’s reasonable to say this is how your old boss sees himself, but it’s really not his place to make any of those decisions for you. And even if it were, he handled it in the worst possible manner.

      2. Random Dice*


        YOU have the right to, one day, choose gratitude to the universe that you were put on a new path that turned out to be better… But you don’t EVER have to be grateful to the bully himself. And NOBODY else gets to tell you what meaning you should get from a painful situation.

        I have spent a lot of time thinking on this topic. I’ve often wondered: if I could wave a magic wand and make my abusive ex never have happened, would I? And the answer in my heart, with safety and distance enough to heal, is: no, because I learned so much, will never fall for that crap again, and have so much more empathy and wisdom now.

        But I am not thankful FOR my abusive ex – my gratitude is to my friends and community, to my therapists, and ultimately, to myself. Big difference.

  34. Rivakonneva*

    I work in academia, and many of the colleges/universities in my state are closed between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Some institutions make employees take PTO, and some don’t. Mine doesn’t.

    But there is a catch. Because we don’t have to take PTO, it also means we don’t get some of the other federal holidays off – like President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, etc. In the past we didn’t get Memorial Day either, and that really stank like garbage. Luckily a new Big Boss came in a few years ago and gave it back to us. :)

  35. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    LW # 3 – Really don’t worry about it. I got a promotion (just a title bump/pay) but I was very actively looking for a job and put in my notice about a month later. My husband had become disabled and even with my promotion, the job offer I got was double my salary. My boss had fought hard to get the promotion pushed through (the company was in the midst of a merger too) but she was very happy for me and totally understood. Things happen. You always need to look out for yourself.

    1. LW3*

      Hi, thanks for sharing your experience. I was super torn about it, feeling like I was being unethical, but I’m happy to say I worried about nothing in the end.
      I receieved the external job offer (which I started this week) while the promotion process was still unresolved. That position has not been filled yet, as far as I know.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        Congratulations! I was going to chime in that you should absolutely take the promotion if it happens first, there was no guarantee the job offer was going to happen (or you would accept it), etc. But that’s uneccessary now, I’m so glad it all worked out!

      2. The first rat*

        I had kind of the opposite experience. I had been trying to get promoted to senior engineer for a long time. (At one point, I was leading a project with two senior engineers working under my direction.) My manager did eventually tell me I had proven myself worthy and he would work on getting the promotion. After a few months of crickets, I gave up and started job searching. When I had an offer in hand for a senior engineer position, I went one last time and asked (without disclosing the offer) the status of the promotion, and for the fifteenth time he told me he was working on it. So I walked out of his office and accepted the new job. Later that afternoon, he emailed me the good news that he had gotten me the new title, but without any change in pay. Thanks I guess? He was rather miffed the next business day when I handed in my resignation, and accused me of asking for the promotion just as a negotiating tool to improve my external offer. I was a little offended but ignored him and worked out my two weeks notice. I heard that he ended up getting fired a couple months later for failing to retain employees (not just me).

  36. Addison DeWitt*

    My question is, does PTO reset at the start of the new year? If so, what difference would it make to use up ’23’s PTO in the last week, even if mandatory?

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Not always – at my current job, mine used to reset on my anniversary until they changed it to reset on 1/1 a couple years ago, and then to unlimited a year ago. (Honestly unlimited is such a relief. Not having to watch your PTO like a hawk is so liberating. I was skeptical of it, but am now a big supporter.)

      Also, when you start at a new job, you might not have enough PTO at the start or not accrue enough by the holiday week, so there’s that factor too. (Happened to someone I talked to at a job a friend wanted me to apply for – dude started right before Thanksgiving and was told that he was on the hook for six PTO days between Thanksgiving and New Year, but that he also had no PTO time at the start and wouldn’t accrue enough in time to take it. And that working remotely through the holidays wasn’t an option. His manager had to go up the chain to have special accommodations made for him. It was at a large hospital system. Between that and them offering me a 30% paycut, I withdrew from the hiring process.)

      1. HonorBox*

        That’s a great point about the accrual timeframe. It seems incredibly unfair to suggest someone take PTO when they have none available to take. Glad the manager got accommodations, because what else is someone to do?

    2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      Because they may have limited PTO to begin with and making someone use it because the office decided to be closed is wrong. Depending on where the holidays fall that could be 5 days of PTO. And if someone is not Christian they may have wanted to use that time for their own religious holidays

  37. Steve Frasz*

    RE: Letter 4

    My first real career job had something similar. It was at a small weekly newspaper that shut down for two weeks around the Christmas holidays and two weeks in the summer, as advertising would slow down and it was cheaper for the paper to simply pay their employees than put out a newspaper.

    We mostly liked it as then there was no fighting for vacation time and we got four weeks vacation instead of the provincial mandatory of two, time off around the holidays and time off in the heat of the summer.

    When my co-worker wanted time off for a big family wedding, she and the publisher struck a deal – she worked one week during our closed weeks and wrote several feature stories that we could run while she was away or at other times. Worked out great.

    But that presumes your boss is a reasonable person and willing to try to accommodate people.

  38. Dancing Otter*

    Years ago, I worked at a small public university that also shut down between Christmas and New Year’s, even turning the heat down to just enough not to freeze the pipes. (I guess they must have had a skeleton crew in Facilities, but all other staff was locked out.)

    They twisted the knife, though. Exempt, salaried staff got it free, without using PTO; hourly staff had to use PTO. Exempt personnel started with five weeks PTO while hourly only got two weeks. Very much “to those that have, more shall be given.”

    One of many reasons the hourly staff unionized, and good for them. The union (AFSCME) actually managed to get that holiday discrepancy changed after a few years.

  39. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Only time I can think of when a boss pushed an employee to look for positions elsewhere was with a coworker I had, who was one day told that her position would soon be eliminated and to look for another job, boss said she could take her time looking and that he’d be her reference, but that she had to start looking. This person considered me her work friend for the reason that we were the only two people in the office from my home country. She drove me nuts daily. She’d come over, lean over my cubicle wall, and have long chats in our native language, when my own boss was very demanding and I didn’t know how he’d take to that. (I was then younger and less assertive, today’s me would’ve told her to go pound salt.) We had nothing in common outside of the native language. She was antisemitic and I was jewish, I told her, she said “you don’t look it” and continued to come by for chats anyway?! She also turned out to be a massive racist, and in the last chat she had with me before leaving, complained that her daughter was going to start kindergarten in a year, she and her fiance were looking at schools all over the metro area, but every single school they looked at had Black kids enrolled and they were wanting a school with none of them. “You looked at it too when you were looking for a school for your kids didn’t you?” NO MAAM I DID NOT. (i was mostly speechless.) I would wake up every weekday morning dreading interactions with this woman. But anyway long story short: shortly after she left, I ran into her boss at a happy hour and thanked him for getting her off my back. His response “oh yeah, she was awful” followed by a long laundry list of how she was a terrible employee and he wanted her gone.

    TL;DR only time I’ve seen a manager do what the boss in letter 1 did (but nicely, no bullying) was when he really wanted to fire the person, but for some reason also didn’t want to do the whole termination thing, so he had her leave on her own instead. Clearly not the case with LW1!!! I am mystified as to the boss’s motives in this.

  40. Kyrielle*

    LW #4, what leaps out to me here is that she started in February and “just found out” – depending on when you sent this letter, this ranges from bad to horrible. Because she should have been made aware at the time of the offer if they knew they were doing that. Failing that it should have been in her onboarding materials. Maybe this is the first year they’re doing it or they changed something after she was hired so they didn’t know, but otherwise, the information gap is a problem entirely separate from the holiday closing.

    That might be worth raising even if the policy stays the same, just so that new hires know to plan for it in plenty of time.

  41. That wasn't me. . .*

    Better never to ask “competitors” their professional rates in this type of situation. If you then beat their rates, you took advantage of the friendship. If you up your rates to meet theirs – well, that’s price fixing, and that’s illegal. (You can disclose what YOU charge, I think, if you don’t mind how they use that info. And if it’s retail, you can certainly shop their store/ad/websites, even phone and inquire, to make sure you’re not being undersold, but that’s different from presuming on a friendship. )

  42. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    #1 I sure hope you got either a severance or at least got unemployment. If not and they denied it I would forward that email to your case manager unemployment because there is no reason why you should have een let go just because he wanted her to go to other companies.

    I really don’t understand his thought process. He has a really good employee. I can understand if he wasn’t able to promote you and you were whining about a promotion. But it seems you were happy where you were. He didn’t need to interfere. I’m not sure if you were interviewing yet or not but it really isn’t his business. And if you were, does he not realize that people still have to make a living while looking for other places to work?

    And the part about emailing your mom? Thats just even weirder.

    I hope you find a good job where someone treats you right

    1. Saraquill*

      LW1 here. My severance was a week’s worth of pay. I also got unemployment insurance.

      My current job is much better.

  43. Ess Ess*

    For #1, depending on the state that OP works in, the employer may have broken the law by contacting OPs mother and discussing OPs layoff. For example, in Illinois there is a Right to Privacy in the Workplace law that prohibits this type of communication.

  44. tsumommy*

    My spouse works for one of the largest telecom companies in the world, and they shut down the week between Christmas and New Year worldwide. It’s just the way they do things, no one my husband has worked with thinks it’s onerous.

    1. tsumommy*

      I should add, they do have to use PTO or take time off unpaid if they are contractors (which my husband is), but with the holidays, it ends up being maybe 3 days of that.

      1. Samwise*

        The thing is, it’s not everybody’s holiday. And some of us would prefer to work and get paid that week and take our PTO at another time.

        1. Momma Bear*

          This. My former company now does this (I left before the transition) and I’d rather those 5 days as floater holidays than a forced vacation. Even if you do celebrate Christmas, not everyone has families to go home to. I also used to be one of those contractors who had to take PTO. That wasn’t fun, either. It’s part of the reason I left that job. I got tired of having to burn leave because they put me on a contract with a different set of holidays than Corporate, and didn’t do anything to help their employees out.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      If you read the comments, clearly there are people who find it onerous.
      Just because it works fine for some people doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be questioned.

  45. Samwise*

    Large state university. Most years we have to take at least one day PTO over the winter break, used to be several, even though the university is closed.

    I always put as my comment for the leave in the online system: “State of XX stealing workers’ benefits”

  46. Head sheep counter*

    I miss the winter shutdown from my prior job. It was fantastic to not come back to emails and to not have to make busy work when there was no effective way to get things done (all collaborators were either on a similar schedule or… well… made a similar schedule).

    Its wild to me to imagine that if there is no work and the facility is shutdown except for some maintenance… that one would expect to be paid outside of PTO unless it was an emergency. But if the PTO policy is stingy… I can and do think that its worth seeing if it could be improved.

    As an aside, the shutdown was clearly communicated in the hiring package because… its a big deal. If yours wasn’t… that is bad.

  47. Jarissa*

    LW1 (Saraquill):

    When I was eighteen and in my first year of on-campus living at college, my roommate explained to me that she had always had to be the one to actively break up each of her previous relationships. This is why she was doing some truly awful things to her current romantic partner: she wanted a turn at being the “grieving victim of heartbreak”.

    There are some people in the world who will appear to be entirely grown up functional adult humans, who *absosmurfly* make each decision in their lives according to the script in their heads of how they want other people to think of them. Your ex-boss learned somewhere that a Truly Good Boss mentors young people, gives them opportunities, supports them, and then assists them in moving upward into the greater world — where Powerful Industry People will hear of his “good boss” status and thus think well of him, maybe even use him at one remove as their own role model.

    You may have never been a whole person to him; you might have been a minor character in the stage play of his life. Alas, you came with two complications: not following his script properly when Act III was supposed to happen, and having a valuable connection to someone else (your mother) who may also subvert his script by revealing his actions to other customers. The story in the industry might instead become “this twerp harmed someone’s career”.

    I am very sorry all of this happened to you. It may be useful to think of it as “the story in Ex-Boss’s head makes sense to him, but that does not mean my mother or I are obligated to comply with it.” And you will find other people in your future business career who are telling themselves a particular story so loudly that they can’t really understand how it appears on the outside. Sometimes, that makes it easier to nod and say, “You’re sure spending a lot of your own time and resources on not solving this the honest way. How likely is the end result to be worth it?” and then make a note on the internal files about this business contact’s notions of problem-solving.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh wow, this is good analysis and probably correct. I’ve seen various corporate leaders make a lot of horrible decisions, changes etc that were not good for the business, were not good for the morale, triggered a mass exodus in some cases, and could only be explained by “but he then can put it on his CV that he saved X million dollars for the company by doing Y and use it to move to his next, better job” (which was what those leaders also did shortly after making their changes).

    2. Saraquill*

      Thanks. I also think his strange behavior had to do more with his internal narrative than with me in particular.

  48. el l*

    OP3, there’s a Cardinal Rule of Job Switching:

    Until you have signed an offer letter at the new place, it’s just conversation with them and business-as-usual at the current place.

    So, yeah, as someone in this situation 2 years ago – take the promotion.

  49. nnn*

    The situation described in #4 would be so much less frustrating if, instead of saying “You get X days of PTO but – surprise! – you are required to use them between Christmas and New Year’s”, instead they said “You get X-3 days of PTO, plus you get paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s!”

  50. Random Dice*

    I would be fired for doing that kind of unethical price fixing intelligence.

    We get annual training on it.

    What the hell.

  51. SB*

    How many days PTO is it when you subtract the public holidays & weekends? This year I will be off from Saturday 23/12 to Monday 01/01/2024 (returning to work Tuesday 02/01/2024) which gives me 10 days off in a row but only three of them are taken from Annual Leave bank as 23 & 24 & 30 & 31 are weekends, 25 & 26 & 01 are public holidays, 27, 28 & 29 are AL.

    It is still frustrating to be forced to use your leave entitlements during a period of time when you would not ordinarily take the time off, but for me it gives the most bang for my buck as far as maximum consecutive time off with minimal hit to my leave bank!

  52. Porch Life*

    LW2: stop telling your boss your weekend plans or mentioning that you’re going to see particular friends in the near future. Don’t bring it up, and if he asks, be vague. What you do outside of work is not his business – don’t let him make it his business, and he won’t be able to make particular suggestions.

Comments are closed.